Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 23, 1976 when Archbishop Henry J. O'Brien passed away.
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20131004cnsbr1932 webSandra Bullock and George Clooney star in a scene from the movie "Gravity." (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)NEW YORK (CNS) – Hold on tight for the ride of your life in "Gravity" (Warner Bros.), a lost-in-space adventure as exhilarating as it is terrifying.

Director Alfonso Cuaron ("Children of Men"), who co-wrote the screenplay with his son Jonas, serves up a modern-day horror story with top-notch performances and dazzling 3-D cinematography that envelops the audience in the majesty of space.

The film's life-or-death scenario evokes the spirit of the 2011 movie "Apollo 18." But the danger here doesn't come from aliens as it did in that feature. Instead, it results from all-too-human technology gone badly wrong.

Amid the mayhem, "Gravity" has another, deeper story to tell, as the nearness of death provokes reflections on mortality and the afterlife.

The space shuttle is in orbit 370 miles above Earth, and astronauts Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are outside it, making repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope. The two crewmates are chalk and cheese: Stone the cool, reserved scientist on her first mission; Kowalski the cocky veteran, a fun-loving space cowboy with the gift of the gab who's savoring his final voyage.

"Houston, I have a bad feeling about this mission," Kowalski quips lightheartedly to mission control before breaking into another yarn as his favorite country music plays in the background.

Kowalski's levity is misplaced. When the Russians launch a missile against a spy satellite, it causes a chain reaction in space, raining debris on the astronauts. Within seconds, the shuttle is destroyed, and Kowalski and Stone are the only survivors, cut off from Earth and spiraling into outer space.

What ensues is "E.T." in reverse, as our plucky marooned humans search for a way to go home (where gravity is taken for granted). With Kowalski steering his jet pack and Stone on a tether, they make their way to the nearest oasis, the International Space Station, where more challenges await.

To describe what happens next would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say that, in the deafening silence of space, the duo has plenty of time to meditate as they stare death in the face.

For Stone, this is an epiphany. She laments that she is alone in the world, mourning the loss of her only child in an accident years ago. "Who will pray for my soul?" she asks.

While she admits that she has never prayed herself, she regrets that no one ever taught her how.

Such feelings are hardly surprising when the possibility of death is imminent. But "Gravity" – which provides a rare combination of enlightenment and excitement – uses these sentiments as stepping stones toward a resolution that viewers of faith will find both satisfying and refreshingly pro-life.

In view of its underlying significance, and despite the elements listed below, some parents may consider "Gravity" acceptable for mature adolescents.

The film contains scenes of intense peril and horror, brief gore, at least one use of profanity and a few crude expressions. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.